Abstracts on Global Climate Change

Apr 2005

Decomposition of soybean grown under elevated concentrations of CO2 and O-3

Booker, FL Prior, SA Torbert, HA Fiscus, EL Pursley, WA Hu, SJ


A critical global climate change issue is how increasing concentrations of atmospheric CO2 and ground-level O-3 will affect agricultural productivity. This includes effects on decomposition of residues left in the field and availability of mineral nutrients to subsequent crops. To address questions about decomposition processes, a 2-year experiment was conducted to determine the chemistry and decomposition rate of aboveground residues of soybean (Glycine max (L.) Merr.) grown under reciprocal combinations of low and high concentrations of CO2 and O-3 in open-top field chambers. The CO2 treatments were ambient (370 mu mol mol(-1)) and elevated (714 mu mol mol(-1)) levels (daytime 12 h averages). Ozone treatments were charcoal-filtered air (21 nmol mol(-1)) and nonfiltered air plus 1.5 times ambient O-3 (74 nmol mol(-1)) 12 h day(-1). Elevated CO2 increased aboveground postharvest residue production by 28-56% while elevated O-3 suppressed it by 15-46%. In combination, inhibitory effects of added O-3 on biomass production were largely negated by elevated CO2. Plant residue chemistry was generally unaffected by elevated CO2, except for an increase in leaf residue lignin concentration. Leaf residues from the elevated O-3 treatments had lower concentrations of nonstructural carbohydrates, but higher N, fiber, and lignin levels. Chemical composition of petiole, stem, and pod husk residues was only marginally affected by the elevated gas treatments. Treatment effects on plant biomass production, however, influenced the content of chemical constituents on an areal basis. Elevated CO2 increased the mass per square meter of nonstructural carbohydrates, phenolics, N, cellulose, and lignin by 24-46%. Elevated O-3 decreased the mass per square meter of these constituents by 30-48%, while elevated CO2 largely ameliorated the added O-3 effect. Carbon mineralization rates of component residues from the elevated gas treatments were not significantly different from the control. However, N immobilization increased in soils containing petiole and stem residues from the elevated CO2, O-3, and combined gas treatments. Mass loss of decomposing leaf residue from the added O-3 and combined gas treatments was 48% less than the control treatment after 20 weeks, while differences in decomposition of petiole, stem, and husk residues among treatments were minor. Decreased decomposition of leaf residues was correlated with lower starch and higher lignin levels. However, leaf residues only comprised about 20% of the total residue biomass assayed so treatment effects on mass loss of total aboveground residues were relatively small. The primary influence of elevated atmospheric CO2 and O-3 concentrations on decomposition processes is apt to arise from effects on residue mass input, which is increased by elevated CO2 and suppressed by O-3.

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